Virginia’s booming wild-caught blue catfish industry may weaken under federal regulation
It’s been a rough year for Virginia’s seafood industry.
Earlier this year, the U.S. cap on foreign seasonal H2B workers forced some local seafood processing plants to shut down parts of their operations. Then came the bad news that blue crab harvests would be reduced this fall and next spring, after fisheries managers determined the juvenile population was low.
Now, the new wild-caught, blue catfish industry is at risk because of tighter inspection rules set for full implementation by the USDA on Sept. 1. It will be the only fish to come under USDA inspection.
Though the inspections were meant to help U.S. catfish farmers compete with Asian imports by leveling the playing field, it puts all catfish, including wild-caught blue catfish, under the same strict inspections as meat, poultry and eggs.
Mike Hutt, who promotes the state’s seafood industry, said Virginia has not had any problems with quality or recalls. He said many of the processors are small operations that have been in business for 30 or 40 years and won’t be able to afford the cost of coming up to code.